Revenge Of The Teenage Girls

So, most people probably saw Ellen Page for the first time in the award winning Juno, but her breakthrough performance came in the movie Hard Candy. For those of you who don’t know, and I hope that’s most of you, hard candy is Internet slang for an underage girl who is found quite desirable by an older man. Pedophilia is generally not addressed very directly in movies, most often referenced rather than shown, which is understandable enough- it’s a hard subject to display visually without feeling exploitative.

Hard Candy doesn’t leave any doubt as to how it tackles the subject. It quickly moves from a flirtatious Internet chat between Hayley Stark (Page) and photographer Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson) to a face-to-face meeting in a coffee shop. We soon discover that she’s 14 and he’s 32. The get along famously, as Hayley’s mature intellect fits right in with Jeff’s- her desire for a relationship with an older man resulting from her boredom with the immaturity of her peers. The flirtations escalate and Hayley suggests they go to his place. Even though she’s impressed with Jeff’s style and class, Hayley’s not stupid enough to let him make her drink, so she mixes the screwdrivers. Hayley puts some music on and takes her shirt off, dancing while Jeff takes pictures. Waves of disorientation wash over Jeff and he passes out. He wakes up tied to a chair while Hayley makes disturbing accusations, but Jeff, he doesn’t have a clue what she’s talking about. Jeff’s only hope is to convince Hayley she’s made a mistake before she exacts vengeance up on him.

While the pedophiliac acts end when Jeff passes out, the subject is still the focal point of the rest of the movie. Hayley ramps up the incentive for Jeff to confess, but she doesn’t have any actual evidence to support her claims, and outside of Jeff’s flirtations, we can’t really be sure who’s telling the truth. Are Hayley’s assertions enough to justify her actions or is Jeff only guilty of acting inappropriately with a demented young girl? Is one type of evil more tolerable than another? It all shakes out in the end, after some tense, cringe-worthy scenes.

Patrick Wilson’s performance is good, but Ellen Page really stands out as Hayley. She transforms effortlessly from a naive kid to a torturous monster. Hayley’s slight figure belies her calculating, controlling demeanor. She’s a wolf in Red Riding Hood’s clothing.

The movie reminded me a lot of Roman Polanski’s Death and the Maiden. A woman (Sigourney Weaver) becomes certain that the man who gave her husband a ride home (Ben Kingsley) was one of the men responsible for torturing and raping her when she was a prisoner of the old government. She holds him captive in her house, doing all she can to make him admit to his crimes. He denies everything and even presents an alibi, but she won’t waver from her accusations. I found the connection between an underage girl and Roman Polanski very ironic, if unintentional.

2 comments to Revenge Of The Teenage Girls

  • John

    You’re right, it’s a great movie, made possible by the incredible script and direction, camera work and especially powerful acting, but his name is Patrick Wilson – not Stuart – just so he gets his props. Ellen Page was typically brilliant but he should get some applause too… that Patrick Wilson. Patrick.

  • Furious

    Patrick Wilson, yeah, I’ll change that. I guess I had Stuart Wilson on the brain because he was the Wilson in Death and the Maiden.

    It was pretty good all the way around except for Sandra Oh’s awkward scenes.

    Thanks for the comment and the heads up.

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